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Bladerunner [Mass Market Paperback]

Alan Nourse


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Book Description

December 1975
In 2014 seventeen-year-old Billy Gimp risks great danger as a procurer of illegal medical supplies for a skilled surgeon determined to provide health care for people considered unqualified for legal medical aid.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Printing edition (December 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345246543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345246547
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.4 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,950,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 'proto-cyberpunk' medical SF adventure Sept. 29 2008
By J. Higgins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Alan E. Nourse (1928 - 1992) was a physician and the author of a sizeable (and well-written) collection of SF short stories and novels, most of which were aimed at juveniles (the term `Young Adult' wasn't really in use in the 1950s). I remember his short story collection `The Counterfeit Man' as one of the perennial SF titles offered to kids as part of the Scholastic (paperback) Book Club purchasing program present in many elementary and junior high schools in the Baby Boomer era.

`The Bladerunner' (1974, ages 12 to adult) has a confusing history with regard to its title. A screenplay based on Nourse's novel and written by William Burroughs failed to attract attention from the major studios when shopped in the mid 70's; subsequently the screenplay was adapted to a novelette and published in 1979 as `Blade Runner: A Movie'. From what I remember from reading this truncated version, it too-clearly reflected Burroughs's fixation with pederasty, and even the more `progressive' studio execs probably felt uncomfortable with the thought of catering to the fantasies of a filthy old pervert, however great his standing in the literary world.

I've no idea if Warner Bros. paid any sort of licensing fee to Nourse or Ballantine / Del Rey for using the title for its 1982 film adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel `Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ?'. If not, they certainly should have, because `The Bladerunner' is a good novel in its own right despite having the misfortune to share a title with one of the most influential SF films of the past 50 years.

`Bladerunner' is set in approximately 2015, after the 1994 `Health Riots' marked the economic collapse of the American health care system. Anyone seeking treatment in any medical facility may find themselves subject to sterilization under Eugenics Laws designed to reduce the incidence of disease in the population. Unsurprisingly, many elect to have their medical needs met at home using a clandestine system of care performed by idealistic MDs who disagree with the System. `Bladerunner' refers to those young men who serve as couriers for contraband drugs and surgical supplies between patients and the doctors, most of whom have entirely legitimate practices in hospitals and clinics in the wealthier sections of the city.

Billy Gimp is one such Bladerunner, working for surgeon `Doc' John Long and his able nurse Molly. The trio sets out several times a week to lower-income neighborhoods of New York and its surrounding environs to conduct kitchen-table tonsillectomies and other surgical procedures. Billy and his companions must be watchful for surveillance by the Big Brother-ish Health Control police, since a conviction for providing black market health care can result in imprisonment for Billy, and the loss of a license for Doc.

When Billy does find himself under surveillance, he quickly learns that it is not unique to his own bladerunning operation, but rather, has expanded to the entire underground medicine infrastructure. Does the increased scrutiny by the authorities have anything to do with the `Shanghai Flu' ? Could the Flu be the start of an epidemic of a new and lethal disease, and his clients in the black market the medical equivalent of canaries in a coal mine ? Can the authorities set aside their ideology to ally with the bladerunners, and stop a catastrophe from snuffing out half of the population of the United States ?

In my opinion `The Bladerunner' is a very readable example of proto-cyberpunk SF. It shares with the genre the near-future setting, the psychological backdrop of paranoia and alienation from `conventional' society, an urban megalopolis subject to pervasive government oversight, and a sense of the `street finding its own use for things'.

Billy Gimp is a prototypical cyberpunk `hero', with his club foot, trashed apartment, and contempt for authority sharpened by a life of deprivation in the grimy alleys of the Lower City. The novel lacks the emphasis on sex, (illegal) drugs, and rock n' roll found in the cyberpunk Canon (this is a novel intended for young adults and older readers, after all), but it serves as a kind of predecessor to Neuromancer, still a decade away from hitting the shelves.

And... I guess it's just coincidence that there's a Molly in Bladerunner and a Molly in Neuromancer ? ....hmmm...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bladerunner Oct. 8 2009
By capnsid - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A fine, masterful work by the late Dr. Alan Edward Nourse (originator of the title of the Ridley Scott film), which shows a New York, not too far in the future, afflicted by an Asian flu which, coupled with meningitis-like symptoms, could lead to a full scale, deadly epidemic with no geographic boundaries.

When governmnet-sponsored healthcare, accessible only to those who submit to voulntary sterilization, threatens to leave the poor, or unwilling in the lurch, doctors (such as John Long, M.D.) will perform inexpensive surgeries under the table until such time as the patients can afford to pay for better medical care.

In the service of these doctors are registered nurses (like Molly Barret), anestheticians (when one is available) and, out of vital necessity, courier/smugglers of illegally-acquired medical supplies: bladerunners (for instance, Billy Gimp; not his real name); so-called because of the scalpels (blades) among other supplies they carry.

Billy is under surveillance for various illegal activities; he's also the only person who can elicit support for Doc, when the chips are down. In his corner is Molly, who takes Doc to task for continually promising to fix Billy's club foot problem (hence Billy's nickname).

With the cops closing in on Billy in the Lower City section of Manhattan, it's only a matter of time before Billy's various contacts (Doc, Molly in the Upper City, suppliers and other bladerunners) get pulled into the net the police have thrown over the region.

Expertly written by a former M.D., The Bladerunner conjures up images of American cities we all know, with a sort of multi-level, stacked metropolis image (Seattle, my hometown, in some parts; L.A., downtown; and Chicago, in such films as Batman Begins, and Dark Knight), and the current healthcare crisis, with its Asian flu epidemic, and robot-assisted surgery (against which Doc fights, out of contempt for soulless machines) a reality, this book, penned in 1974, is more prophetic in reality, than the movie which bought its title. Find a copy and settle in for a long night in a future all too present.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obscure, out of print, hard to find. And that's just the author and his work. This should have been the original "Bladerunner" Aug. 11 2008
By Lance, "The Wild Man of Borneo", Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The novel The Bladerunner (also published as The Blade Runner) is a 1974 science fiction novel by Alan E. Nourse.

The novel's protagonist is Billy Gimp, a man with a club foot who runs "blades" for Doc (Doctor John Long) as part of an illegal black market for medical services. The setting is a society where free, comprehensive medical treatment is available for anyone so long as they qualify for treatment under the Eugenics Laws. Preconditions for medical care include sterilization, and no legitimate medical care is available for anyone who does not qualify or does not wish to undergo the sterilization procedure (including children over the age of five). These conditions have created illegal medical services in which bladerunners supply black-market medical supplies for underground practitioners, who generally go out at night to see patients and perform surgery.

Connection to the film Blade Runner:

The book is a version of a common science-fiction plot, which suggested the title of the 1982 science-fiction film Blade Runner (which was otherwise unrelated beyond the common element of dystopian futures). Both of the earlier works use the term "bladerunner" to describe black-market suppliers of items needed for medical care.

In 1979 William S. Burroughs was commissioned to write a story treatment for a possible film adaptation. This treatment was published as the novella Blade Runner (a movie). Burroughs acknowledged the Nourse novel as a source, and prominently set a mutated virus and right-wing politics in the year 1999.

No film was produced from it, but Hampton Fancher, a screenwriter for the 1982 film (based on science fiction author Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), had a copy, and it suggested the title Blade Runner as one more tantalizing than the successive earlier working titles, "Android" and "Dangerous Days". Within the film, the phrase appears as an informal term for the personnel of the police "Rep-Detect" division.

Ridley Scott bought any rights to the title "Blade Runner" that might have arisen from either the Nourse novel or the Burroughs story treatment.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book , but nothing to do with the movie of same title Sept. 6 2011
By xfrogman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read this book as a teen and just recently re-read it as an adult. As a teen, I found it boring and short of action, but as an adult I was able to realize the meaning and true story of government meddling in the field of medical insurance and treatment. This book was written in the sixties man and now we truly have government meddling in medical care eerily bordering on some of the practices described in this book. Pretty good read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun read Jan. 3 2014
By Knoxgal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found the Bladerunner to be a fun read. The technology was dated but otherwise I found it entertaining. The characters were believable and likable.

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